Anyone picking up a newspaper or watching a news program on TV this summer will read or see news that read: “Putin cuts gas supply to 20 percent” or “China begins live ammunition drills.” There may also be talk of price jumps in food or a possible mask requirement in autumn.
Ukraine, Taiwan, inflation and still Corona – the multiple crises take up almost everyone’s attention. A catastrophe that also has something to do with German politics falls behind: the situation in Afghanistan, where according to the UN, millions are starving and where an earthquake recently wreaked havoc in the east of the country.
Thousands could die there in the next few months, while others could flee to Europe. And local Germans are still holding out there, hoping for rescue by leaving the country via Pakistan. But they seem largely forgotten.
The anniversary of the fall of Kabul is just a few days away. On August 15, the Taliban took over the Afghan capital with almost no fighting. Thousands of Western diplomats and many more local officials were stranded. The latter feared the revenge of the radical Islamic tyrants because, as Afghans, they had worked for the enemy in the eyes of the Taliban.
The moment reminded commentators in Europe and the USA of Vietnam, it seemed like a turning point in world politics, the West humiliated after twenty years of war by a manageable force of bearded men with Kalashnikovs, who often came along in open-toed shoes. Few suspected at the time that Russia wanted to launch a war of aggression against Ukraine, which would tie up a lot of Western energy.
Even before the Bundestag committee of inquiry into the Kabul case had started its work, the media had begun painstakingly researching and describing the processes involved in the withdrawal from Kabul. A Spiegel cover story (“Eleven Days in Kabul”) and a WDR documentary (“The Fall of Kabul: Chronicle of a Disaster”) trace the dramatic events with an unusual density and allow both Germans and Afghans to have their say. Whoever reads the text or looks at the documentation gets the impression of being directly involved in what is happening.
In Berlin, the evacuation request fell on deaf ears
One result of the research: The resistance in the federal government and especially in the Foreign Office against a timely evacuation of the embassy in Kabul and a rescue of the German local staff at a time when this was still possible is far more stubborn in both accounts than was previously known. It is not only about the ultimate political responsibility of the chancellor and ministers, but also about the action or inaction of named ministry officials or diplomats.
One politician who welcomes the increased journalistic interest in the deduction is the chairman of the investigative committee, Ralf Stegner (SPD). “It’s not just politicians who have to deal with this mission and its consequences. It’s good if society is also concerned with it, takes a close look at it and makes its judgement,” the member of the Foreign Affairs Committee told the Tagesspiegel. “Then we can also learn from the mistakes,” he added. Stegner pointed out that other partners in civil and military engagement, such as Australia, the Netherlands and Great Britain, had also evaluated their operations or were planning to do so.
The former head of the state party and the SPD parliamentary group in Schleswig-Holstein is betting that more people will follow the situation in the Hindu Kush again: “I very much hope that the anniversary of the withdrawal and the journalistic contributions will help to generate interest in the to strengthen the appalling situation in Afghanistan.”
The chairman of the committee sees the situation as follows: “The Hindu Kush has disappeared from the perspective of Europe and Germany, many private donations are now going to the Ukraine. That’s understandable, but we mustn’t forget Afghanistan and we mustn’t give up.” For Germany, looking the other way is not an option, Stegner warns: “After 20 years of war, it is also our responsibility that the Afghans can eventually lead a decent life again.”
The social democrat, who entered the Bundestag for the first time in the autumn, familiarized himself with the topic during the parliamentary break, among other things by talking to experts and studying relevant literature. “The West was not interested enough in the culture and traditions of Afghanistan and ultimately misjudged them,” is his first verdict.
“20 years in a country you didn’t know”
This has been one of the reasons for the failure of the military and civilian mission. Stegner: “You were traveling in a country that you didn’t know for 20 years.” stay away from the Allied military.”
A special feature of the U-committee chaired by Stegner is the fact that no one is in office anymore who had political responsibility for the Afghanistan decisions at the highest level – neither Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU), Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) nor Interior Minister Horst Seehofern (CSU).
In most cases, investigative committees are also instruments of political warfare. Politicians whose mistakes are being dealt with have to defend their actions and sometimes even fear for their jobs. Since no one responsible at the time has to fear his fall this time, the Afghanistan Committee is more likely to concentrate on the matter.
As a rule, media representatives also obtain information from the many files made available to the committee members by the federal government or authorities so that they can follow the events. However, the journalists from Spiegel von WDR were not yet able to use it and had to research everything from other sources.
“The files have only just arrived at the committee, so no journalist can have received any information from them,” Stegner said. In the face of possible “leaks” from his committee’s documents, its chairman is relaxed: “I expect that to change and that journalists will receive information,” he says: “But that’s not a circumstance that depresses me.”